Thursday, September 10, 2015

Sacred geometry. .yantras

Sacred geometry is a complete subject in itself. In yoga it is the esoteric yantras. But across the globe, across cultures,  across human history, geometric figures have always been part of sacred rituals and sacred spaces. Today I was thinking of focusing on one figure and learn about its impact on human psyche: so its the circle.
Here is what master yogi  Harish Johari has if point is condensed energy a circle is its extension.
Simply put a circle defines:
* Phenomenal world
* Infinity
* Space

Johari also says it represents dynamism
Scientists who study the connection between art and the human brain will tell us that at a very subliminal level the geometric shapes do carry
a subtext loaded with meaning. Ergonomists, interior designers, architects, space consultants already exploit this connection.

Monday, September 07, 2015


The gifts u win for sitting calmly
According to Tibetan Buddhist leader Thich Naht Hanh:
* Courage
* Compassion
* Clarity
* Peace

We first get compassion. This gets us courage. Its interesting to note that compassion is linked with courage. This is directly opposite to what we have been taught so far.
Compassion for yourself and others gives you the courage to fight your spiritual battles. And compassion can be cultivated only when we are at peace with ourselves. And when we are at peace mentally we can think clearly.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Svargadvidasana:bird of paradise pose

It's an exotic among exotic poses. So fills u with exhilaration. .even a master like BKS is not above that thrill as mentioned in his Light on Yoga book. This a very tough variation of the basic one. In the latter the top leg is held with this leg lock.  Holding the bottom leg requires tremendous control over balance.
Tip: Master the basic.  Then use a wall to lean while experimenting with this version.  It falls in place, suddenly. Pure serendipity. .

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

More on mayurasana: try this quiz before you learn about its powerful impact

(Pose: Padmamayuraana/lotus peacock)
How do you sequence this pose? Beginning of the yoga sadhana or end? And why?

This is one of the most spiritual poses, simply because of its purificatory nature. In Indian mythology a peacock is the natural enemy of a snake, and therefore  this pose also has that implication -- that it is the natural enemy of the toxic part of who we are  !

Swami Satyananadaji who writes a lot on poses from various angles -- the psychic, spiritual, biological and psycho-somatic -- says it can speed up the throw of toxins and should be part of those who want to clarify things, internally or externally.  Along these lines, it  can help skin clear up, tone the digestion, and tone the entire endocrine gland system.


Here are Swamiji's words: That it should be done towards the end of one's practice because it builds up toxins, imminent to their release. And if you do inversions after the peacock, you may end up with toxin overload in your head!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Peacock pose, understanding the risks

The peacock pose is amongst the classic poses  normally listed in most yoga texts. As you read them, you will find that certain poses are mentioned as common favorites by these ancient hatha yogis. And peacock pose is one of the spiritual poses, and helps you to digest poison physically (and also mentally, I gather).

But certain schools -- especially the therapy based ones -- do not recommend this where certain existing problems persist. Equally, similarly "timid" schools would say that this pose is contraindicated for women and totally avoidable. There is a very good reason for this, if you remember the context in which it is placed. In earlier traditions, and I would say right up to my mom's time, most deliveries of babies were natural births. My mom would say that a woman was physically very busy till the last day of her delivery which facilitated natural childbirth. Plus, most women had several offspring. By the time she reached the third baby, often her hips had widened, and her reproductive system become so flexible inside that she could stand holding the cradle (they used to have the saree tied to a wooden rod, I recall) and feel the baby emerging and could deliver easily and smoothly!
All of this meant of course, that there was a certain natural looseness at the uterine passage. So, peacock, because it applies tremendous pressure, can cause uterine prolapse in such women or if they have incidence of it, worsen the situation.

It is also not recommended for those with a fragile heart. The elbows squeeze into the large liver, one whose functions is to sponge off excess blood that piles up in the cardiac chambers. So, for those with a heart condition, the pressure that piles up at the heart would be beyond permissible levels.

Women who wish to hold the pose and ensure the pelvic floor does not slacken with regular practice of the peacock pose (mayurasana) must hold the root lock firmly when lifting up.
Happy sadhana

Monday, June 08, 2015

Kukkutasana: cockerel pose

I think I teach mainly also so I remain a student. This weekend, I returned to the Kukkutasana after a gap of a year or so. It is a "heavy" pose, so even yoga-mad persons like me resist it simply because it is not as ego-massaging as the other "lighter" poses. But it seems this year on my learning is all about ego-crushing, so today I learnt a lot more about the kukkutasana, and its entry, which is going to make it part of my daily practice.
You enter the pose in garbasana /or garba pindasana -- the embryo pose with legs locked in lotus, and arms through your legs. Then roll over in a rocking motion. The last few rolls should bring you up on the mat, till you lift your hips clear off the mat and hold. Once you go up, your calves and things should lift "grasp" the arms, to lift you even higher.
Just now, the image above was not entered that way.  But will post one soon, with a higher lift, to explain it in detail.
Happy sadhana!

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

The chakra problems you did not know about

I have changed the style of this blog, less lecturing, more crisp and more informative. Earlier, my blog would read like a diary, a personal one, which I shared. Now, this is like a review and relook at some of the marvelous things about yoga. The blog is more like a notebook, where I am revising my yoga lessons:)
So, this is a list of the huge problems that most people do not know
(The image is from Johari's site .. which I recommend for articles and links and super images on yoga and yogic body)
, when a chakra is out of kilter. This is by my favorite master on this topic, Harish Johari.

Mooladhara -- Illusion, anger, greed, violent reactions, insecurity.
SWadhistana chakra-- Emotional yo-yos. Restless anxiety
Manipura -- Selfish actions,ego,anger, power.
Anahata chakra -- Purgatory may be experienced, if negative karmas are enacted.
Vishuddha chakra --Throat center --  Negative intellect, or using the intellect unwisely
Ajna Chakra - Third Eye center --
Sahasrara  chakra -- Crown Center -- Negative intellect, negation of the divine.  Also,when the yogi attains bliss, all action may cease so tamas loka (plane of laziness) may occur.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

10 life-style habits that affect your energy

It is difficult when people come with expectations on the mat, only to improve physical skills and do not take into account lifestyle habits that actually sum you up as a yoga person.

It is not that yoga seeks to change you in a rigid fashion, but the implication is that your lifestyle deeply affects your energy fields and that you could control a lot of such dissipation, through discipline and love for what you do. How you think, even that matters.

I do not want to lecture you. Rather, I quote teachers far greater than I, and who know everything best.
Swami Satyanandaji in one of his books says that lifestyle definitely affects your pranamayakosha (energy body).

Here is a list
1. Physical activity
2. Work
3. Sleep
4. Food intake
5. Sexual relations
7. Imagination
8. Irregularities in lifestyle
9.Dietary indiscretions

This is what drains one's energy. There are five movements of prana /energy. One prana being depleted means blockage in overall energy flow, disease, metabolic dysfunction.

Pranayamas largely help against this depletion and revitalize the body.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Foot problems?

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I bought this little booklet 1001 Home Remedies Natural cures, by Esme Floyd. It is very accessible book, without too verbosity and neatly indexed remedies for every known problem (or so it seemed).
It is a book you may want to pick up, for sure.
Somebody had asked me remedies for fungal toe, and I am sharing some tips from that book (so as to prod you into buying the book).
* Cornmeal foot bath. Soak cornmeal in slightly warm water, Let stand for half hour. Then take a foot bath in it, for an hour. Repeat weekly.
* Rub vick vaporub on feet at night, cover with socks. Repeat daily, till fungus disappear. Ditto for the last tip also.
* Alternately, do a foot rub with this solution: a few drops of peppermint oil added to eucalyptus oil. Again cover feet with socks before sleeping.

Let me know if this worked for you!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Do you know the science behind your hand gestures or yogic mudras?

Which of the following is linked to you yogic hand gestures or mudras

Psychosomatic issues
Brain map, called homunculus man
Emotional part of who you are
Immune gland
Heart chakra
Brain map, Homunculus man

Poll Maker

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Gupta padmasana:hidden lotus

This is a pose  I am reclaiming after a year or so. Earlier, on a good day, I could be in it for a long time. But not enough to make it what it deserves and truly is, a meditation posture. Which means half hour at the least!
And with cleaner and more settled lines at the hips.
It has many physical benefits:
* Hip alignment
* Powers the heart
* Expands lung volume
* Boosts respiratory capacity
* Manages spinal problem, cleans up posture
* Helps control rounded back/dowager's hump
* Improves arm and upper flexibility, plus leg and hip tone.


* Psychic impact?
* Heals the heart center/anahata chakra
* Improves emotional balance

Though the name means hidden lotus, implying the legs in lotus remain hidden beneath the body, I also believe the name could be because of the impact on the hidden nadi, also called gupt nadi -- this one, according to the Bihar School of Yoga,  runs from the knees along the inside of the thighs into the perineum

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Meditation and neutral feelings

I have managed to continue with the meditation class I started a year ago. The attendance is erratic, some people come, some get angry, some get bored. But even if just one person comes I have decided to keep the class going because I realise that the real concept of meditation is not yet promoted in India and as a yoga teacher how could I too fall into that trap of "popular" yoga?

 A lot of "dramatic" meditation is being done by certain yoga schools, almost designed into slapstick comedies.  That works for the boss gurus and attracts the sort of crowd that looks for spiritual entertainment -- which is the latest sort of fun really.

My transcripts are mostly by the Bihar School of yoga, from their innumeraable books.My favorite is of course of Swami Satyananandaji's meditations  --  very healing and soothing, with a sweet and accessible language and structure.

Of course there is no yoga without meditation.

Often, I see people unable to manage their poses despite great physical prowess. I also see people dropping  out of practice altogether. Even sickness and injuries that comes as natural part of life -- it surprises me practitioners allow that and do not see it is because they are resolutely resisting meditation.

Though asanas and pranayama (another aspect of yoga largely neglected all over) do a lot towards sickness control, ultimately, if there is no meditation there is no yoga and not its benefits either, it seems.

 And no, it  is not me saying it. Its the way yoga is defined, because meditation is the higher limb of yoga. It may be you are unfit for it, but to think that meditation is sissy or boring, that is strange. Or to have loud hypnotic sessions where people are lolling about or passed out from psychotropic stuff?

When people who have tried these weird meditation come to my class,they get angry -- because I think the possibility of training the mind is too much for them. They have become so tuned to becoming its puppet.

Here is a quote from Thich Nath Hanh in his little amazing booklet " How to sit" which explains this strange aspect  of meditation which is pure, austere.

"When you sit and breathe with mindful awareness, you become aware of al then emotions that have been  ignored while you were busy doing things. You become aware of not just your sorrows and joys but also your neutral feelings. A neutral feeling is an awareness that is neither pleasant nor painful,such  as an awareness of a part of your body that is not in pain. With awareness, we can transform a neutral feeling into a pleasant feeling.

When you have a toothache, the feeling is very unpleasant. When you don't have a toothache, you usually have a neutral feeling: you are not aware of your toothache. When you are mindful of not having a toothache, then what was a netural feeling becomes a feeling of peace and joy. You are so happy not have a toothache in this moment. By transforming neutral feelings into joyful ones, we nourish our happiness."

That is obviously a tough act. Most people want explosive experiences. And keep on cultivating them. And of course, there are gurus who cater precisely to these sentiments.

So it is natural that meditation is not for everyone.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The biology of meditation

A new booklet by the Bihar School of yoga which I brought (by Rishi Nityabodhananda) lists these marvelous benefits of meditation, especially on the third eye center.

If you notice, most religions have the habit of laying the forehead on the ground (before chairs and stools took over). This obviously activates the third eye.

So, this book Ajna Chakra lists a research published in Biological Psychology by G. A Tooley, which lists these following benefits by managing the release of metatonin which is

* a potent anti-oxidant (which protects against free radical damage)
* free radical scavenger ( free radical cause disease and aging, so melatonin fights them)
* reduces cellular damage of living
* it is anti-cancer
* Immunoaugmenting (boosts immunity)
* anti-stress (stress can kill brain cells conclusively, and is a known cause for most diseases, and hastens aging for sure)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Brain tone, with headstand

While preparing a quiz on the brain for, I made some new discoveries about our good old brain that seems to show why doing the headstand keeps your mentally spry.
No, the research was not talking about the headstand -- I was just linking the dots and came up with this amazing insight:)
* When there is more blood rush to the brain, the myelin sheath, which is around the axon or brain cell, is protected. Damage to it is what causes age-related diseases (Alzheimer's, memory loss)
* More blood to the brain meant more white matter volume: white matter was related to learning, cognitive skills, co-ordinations, speed of firing between the cells. I think of this as young muscles for the brain.
* More blood meant more neurotrophic factors which helped regenerate new brain cells.
* More blood meant the new cells, which otherwise die when remaining unchallenged, get to live longer and help your brain become more plastic.
* It meant that you could ward off the problems of stress which literally eats/suffocates your brain cells to death.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Yoga powers

I have always struggled with remembering this. And I like to believe that this has to do with the advice of all sadgurus that as your practice advances, you are likely to get siddhis. But you ignore them, the way a sadhu rejects the overtures of attractive women.

Any case, over the years I recollect the first four, and the last four have evaded me the minute I shut the text from where I am trying to learn them. I realize that there is something odd there, as if I do not want to know of these other fours. I have my own reasons for that guess, but I am not sharing that here. But check below if you have any of these powers listed below, as amongst the eight siddhis/powers(ashtha siddhis) that come from a regular yoga practice. And if you do find that you are really powered, keep quiet and do not discuss it with anybody, because that would mean upside down wisdom (viparitajnana)

* Anima -- Reduce oneself as little as possible
* Mahima - To grow big, as one wishes
*Laghima - To become light
* Garima -To become heavy
* Prapti - To go where one wishes
* Prakamya - To get what one desires
* Istva- To become Lord of all
* Vastva - To control everybody

You can imagine real leaders in earlier times had to do yoga if they were to be effective at all. Nowadays, I don't know if anybody relates to the esoteric art of yoga..

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Which direction must you face while doing yoga or meditation? Quiz

Which side  should your head face while doing yogic practices or meditation?
Choose any from the following, to find out your spiritualism quotient
* North
* East
* West

Answer: Oops! The illustration has given away the answer.. look carefully.
Yes it is the north. And also, often the east.
Let's get to the science behind it. This is based on the Vastu shashtra(Indian science of architecture designed to maximize the flow of  cosmic energy) , which in turn connects and aligns with the modern day science of the earth magnetic poles. If you understand a bit about pineal gland, it is said to "feel" the earth's magnet. While there are naysayers who feel this is  hocus-pocus, actually science shows that in mass migration of animals across the earth, often in territories that is strange to them, the pineal gland acts as the "guide".
So, in all spiritual practices (even stimulation of the mind in creative and intellectual work), facing north (or east) works best because the energy shifts upwards in a positive way. You have connected with the entire energy of the universe by tapping the direction of its flow. Wow, what an exciting idea.

Yoga injuries? Read on ...

All you hardcore yoga fans who tried my quiz, hurray!
Its super cool that you tried it -- but did you get the right answer -- well, if you clicked cerebellum,  you are right!

And for some more, to whet your appetite for yoga --
Here is a piece, with my quotes, on yoga injuries and how to avoid them, in today's Mumbai Mirror. Click here

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Yoga IQ: the least you should know about yoga-brain link

Try this quiz to check your yoga quotient.
This part of your body is engaged in balancers.
It is also related to
* learning
* memory
*impulse control
* reflexive reactions
*and of course, a state of emotional balance

Now find out here

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sweet success, in the sugar cane pos pose

I am excited that not a day goes by, when I do not learn a new yoga name or a new pose, or a new variation of an old pose, or even a challenging new way to enter an old pose. Even more exciting for me is how I can make almost all my students reach poses that appear daunting. That all I want from them, is the will to do it,and it may be attempted.

This is part of the thrill of being a yoga teacher. And now, as new students come I am less daunted at their awkwardness with their bodies or their disconnect, because I know that my guru's grace is going to get them to pass through this stage easily enough:)

The sugarcane pose (chapasana) in its many variations -- from top let, side plant, mountain, cat, standing forward bend (setuasana, parvatasana, vyagrasana, uttanasana).

It is a lovely challenging pose. I realize it works the oblique with intricate intensity (especially in the side plank), opens the hips in all its variations, and tremendously challenges your senseof balance. In the cat stretch, there is also the easier version of holding ankle with the opposite hand (unlike here, with the same right hand holding right ankle). So, it apparently has endless possibilities.
On the emotional level, it offers:
  1. Exhilaration (it is quite interesting to note that most poses which challenge the "love handle" muscles have this impact).
  2. A keen sense of adventure.
  3. Playfulness (because you must be prepared to fall and pick upin the learning stages).
  4. Stability, groundedness.
  5. An openness of the mind (otherwise most stretches are difficult if you are learning later in life:)
  6. Focus.
  7. Internalisation/involution of the mind.
  8. Fearlessness (a lot of fear comes from how harshly we judge ourselves as beginners/or when we fall and much of the injuries on the mat come from either a lack of focus or extreme ego).
  9. A love for precision and structure, and therefore clarity of thinking.
  10. Pure stamina of the spirit.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Eka pada galavasan is an ankle crusher!

This pose remains one of my most challenging ones, and also a work in progress. Some days, I feel I have lifted the back leg high. But when I take an image of the pose (selfies do have some uses:) it appears as if the leg is curving too much to denote strength.

So, yes, it is a very difficult pose to master and the pain in the ankle, to which I feel a strong resistance, has to be withstood before I proceed ahead.

But this is the first time, today, I caught on to all the mistakes I've been making and that makes it an interesting pose to relearn.

* It is better entered from a squatting upright position, even if you must use a blocks. This is a lighter entry.
* But here different sets of muscles get used. From a squat, you use upper back (which is possible for many yoga practitioners) but from a standing position you need pure hip strength, and a peculiar band of muscle along the hip. So, you may have to struggle with this stage -- with the leg bent --  for a while before you develop muscle memory and strength for that.

* The foot locks itself on the arm. It is better than getting it crushed mindlessly (as I managed to do till now!).The foot is not under the chest, but curved around the arm, in a hook.

* The shin bone of the bent leg also creates a pressing lock and that is how the leg does not slide off.

*It is better to learn strength with the back leg bent and do it for longer than crave an instant lift that is never satisfying and does not give you the right muscle memory.

This pose has taught me that sometimes it is better to unlearn everything and start afresh, with the mind cleansed of the mistakes and from another place (of entry) so the mind is not cluttered by memories that get in the way.

Happy sadhana!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Now the left nostril impact!

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We saw the right nostril impact (sympathetic nervous system triggered), pressure in eye decreases, blinking increases, heart beat increases, right lung preferentiality, increases blood sugar, verbal performance improved.

* Stimulates parasympathetic nervous system.
* Lowers blood sugar.
*Reduces blink rate.
*Increases intraocular pressure
*Decreases heart rate.
*Inflates left lung preferentiality

(From Yoga as Medicine), a Yoga Journal book, by Timothy McCall, M.D.

The image of moon used because left nostril breathing is said to awaken the moon/cooling energy of the ida nadi.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Five powerful effectts you surely did not know about right nostril breathing

(Have used the ardhanareshwar image, because it is often used to illustrate the Right-Left nostril/brain balancing in yogic breathing practices)

I have purchased this exciting book Yoga As Medicine  by Timothy McCall,M.D.( a Yoga Journal book) and this is what I found out. Many of you already know that right nostril breathing stimulates the left brain, and therefore verbal skills, and also stimulates the sympathetic nervous system.

But here is more:
* Increases blood sugar levels
*Increases blinking rate
* Decreases eye pressure
* Increases heart rate.
*Inflates right lung preferentially.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Five tips to get a smooth forward bend: paschimottanasana deconstructed

A yoga practice is incomplete without a perfect seated forward bend. And it will,for many of us, remain a work in progress.

Here are five tips from the one still cleaning up this most exciting, soothing and spiritual of all poses. Btw in all classic sequences and ancient yogic texts, this pose is always a fixture.

  • Do the butterfly or titaliasana regularly to open the hips up. It is the tightness at the hips that sets off shooting pain at the knees.
  • When you move into the pose, do not immediately start to exert or push. This will create a reflexive contraction at the joints which will mess up your intention towards more joint flexibility.
  • Always move very lightly and one-mm at a time more deeply, into the pose. This will help you reach the pose faster.
  • VISUALISE. Most people think of effort only from the body. Yoga is a lot of what happens in your own mind. Visualise that you have reached the pose. Imagine that you can feel the texture of your yoga pants with your chin or nose or face .. you'll be pleasantly surprised that you can actually reach low enough to do that.
  • Avoid bouncing : it creates the same reflexive contraction and makes you tighter.
Happy sadhana!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Side crow,parsva bakasana: From high to low

The basic side crow possibly, for me, is one of the toughest arm balancers.
The variations that come from it, push up the ante,even more.

Not many people really crack it step-by-step. A few tips to enter this pose neatly:

* Stand up to enter the pose instead of trying it from a seated squat.
* Do side-planks to strengthen each wrist and forearm.
* Be prepared for the surprise shift into one arm when you enter the pose.
* Unless you stress the forearm, through regular practice,even if only for a short time, your arms will never understand the special strength needed for it.
* Never forget the most important thing: maintain a focal point on which to fix your eyes. This will somehow make your mind calm enough to enter it more confidently.

Happy sadhana!

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Ask yourself this Chakra questions and track the one out of balance

I keep picking up the Bible MBS series -- a compilation of specific topics. So,yes, though it started off with the Yoga Bible which is very good, the collection has now grown to include several things, including if I confess, Fairies Bible:)
But there are similar books in the market. So, I had picked up this Essential Guide to Chakras(by Swami Saradananda)
... a rather excellent book on the topic. This is very compact and very practical. Some of the books, even for a yoga freak and an avid reader like me, can be rather abstruse. Like the Laya Yoga by Shyam Sunder Goswami which is very educated but too intricate for excited reading. It is more of a scholarly book and needs that bent of mind.

Here I picked a few questions from the book which may help you track an imbalance in a specific chakra for you. What I liked about the books was of course these set of questions, plus how the topic was presented in an accessible manner. I am very excited by the book because of how of the practical ways you can access info on your chakra imbalances and rectify them on your own. It is amazing!

Mooladhara: Do I feel as if I do not belong?
Swadhisthana: Do I feel stuck in my life?
Manipura:  You notice you are apologizing too frequently?
Anahata: You are unable to accept compliments gracefully or believe them fully?
Vishuddha: YOu have to have the last word?Or too timid to speak up?
Ajna: Do I tend to set too high a standard?